When I was a camp counselor, we used to celebrate Christmas in July by singing carols in the dining hall, making and stuffing stockings for our campers and dressing in green and red.

I'm not going to go quite as all out here on The Book Case, but I do have a special treat . . . a little preview of I Am Half-Sick of Shadows, the fourth novel in Alan Bradley's Flavia de Luce series!

In the novel, we find 11-year-old Flavia—a brilliant toxicologist and a pint-sized sleuth—involved in a Christmastime mystery. A film company is shooting a movie at her family's estate, and the star shows up strangled.

Excited yet? The book (which takes its name from a Tennyson poem) comes out on November 1, but that's a long way to wait for a dose of Flavia. For now, you'll have to make do with the page 69 test:

Wet, heavy flakes were falling straight down towards the earth, no two alike as they plummeted past the lighted window of my laboratory—yet all of them embers of the same family.

In the case of snowflakes, the family's name is H2O, known to the unitiated as water.

Like all matter, water can exist in three states: At normal temperatures it's a liquid. Heated to 212 degrees Fahrenheit, it becomes a gas; cooled below 32 degrees, it crystallizes and becomes ice.

Of the three, ice was my favorite state: Water, when frozen was classified as a mineral—a mineral whose crystalline form, in an iceberg, for instance, was capable of mimicking a diamond as big as the Queen Elizabeth.

But add a bit of heat and poof!—your' a liquid again, able to run easily, with only the assistance of gravity, into the most secret of places. Just thinking of some of the subterranean spots in which water has been makes my stomach tickle!

Then, raise the temperature enough, and Ali-kazam! you're a gas—and suddenly you can fly.

If that's not magic, I don't know what is!

Are you charmed yet? Will you pick this one up?

For more on Alan Bradley, visit his author page on BookPage.com.


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